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Blue Guitar - Ten Songs for Guitar and Voice
"The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing." Archilochus (Greek Poet 680bpt - 645bpt)
Those of you familiar with my work will know I am a fox. Here ten songs are sung with guitar accompaniment. Eight are played on acoustic guitar and two on the same guitar but manipulated digitally; one of those two tracks in duo with Australian guitarist Tim Catlin.
I have live in the mediterranean region for 25 years, longer than anywhere else in one stretch in fact, and these guitar accompaniments and my singing, as well as being influenced by my background first in blues and then in free improvised music, were made with various musical styles from this region in mind. In particular flamenco, rembetika and fado. Music that has what Manuel Torre and Lorca liked to describe as a 'dark sounds'.
These pieces were improvised melodically , both vocals and guitar parts, but recorded seperately. I improvised the guitar parts and then improvised the vocal parts reacting to my guitar playing. Seven of the ten pieces are first takes. The exception are the duo with Tim, where I added the vocal later and two of the pieces where I re-recorded the vocals following, as far as I could remember, my original improvised vocal melody.
It is said of Archilochus that - "His verses seem certainly to have possessed strength, flexibility, nervous vigor, and, beyond everything else, impetuous vehemence and energy. " - I hope mine do as well.
My lyrics were constructed rather than written. I constructed them using cut-up methods developed by Brian Gison, William Burroughs and the British artist Tom Phillips. The source material was mostly, but not exclusively, Thomas Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow. I didn' t just lift text wholesale from the work (although there is a section where I did) but used it as a source to randomly pick single words to string together into a completely new sentence or line. How random is random though in this method because unless you do it with your eyes closed some decision and choice is being made. The words on the page become a pallet of colour from which you paint a new picture or poem. Certain current occupations of mine were discovered within the words on those pages and re-formed and re-located.
Instruments, are another thing that shape and influence. The instruments I use here are resophonic guitars. One a metal bodied 1930's vintage National Tri-Plate and the other a copy of the first but made in carbon fibre by Alan Timmings in 1996 and given to me as a gift. These instruments have a very particular sound, volume and as their name suggests resonance. They dont work like other guitars and they make music unlike other guitars. Even playing them with or without finger picks, in plastic or steel even, produces a different timbre and 'feel'. The American composer Lou Harrison liked the National guitar so much that he wrote pieces specifically for it with altered fret positions to facilitate his just intonation scores. They are art-deco masterpieces.
They were invented by John Dopyra a American immigrant originating from Trnava in Slovakia who lived in California where he discovered Hawaiian music. His first National resonator guitars were made for Hawaiian musicians. Hawaii and Hawaiian music is the source of slide guitar playing, and musicians have been playing slide or steel guitar in almost every country and every musical style on the planet since the beginning of the 1900's.
" Things as they are / are changed upon the blue guitar" (Wallace Stevens - The Man With The Blue Guitar)
"I like hearts like mine" (Markos Vamvakaris - Rembetika musician/composer/singer)
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